Afterlife and Valhalla


According to Norse belief the earth was formed by the first giant Ymir, his existence pre dating both gods and men. Poets recount that Ymir’s body is later used as the means to shape this earth. (See Source A.) Poet Snorri later accounts frost giant, Ymir being raised by a cow known as Audumbla, which had been created from melted ice. Ymir uses Audumbla as a form of survival as he drinks the cow’s milk. The next form of creation spawns from Ymir as he licks a block of ice and releases the giant Buri. After Buri’s release from the block of ice, the notions of creation appear much more frequently as his giant son Bor marries giantesses Bestla and have three sons known as Odin, Vili and Ve. Together these three gods murder Ymir their giant relative, to use his body to form the earth.

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Earth or Midgard is only one realm of the norse complex.
There are three known Norse realms:
Asgard: The realm of the gods, this realm also contains Odin’s hall known as Valhalla.
Midgard: The realms of humans, which poets describe Midgard as a buffer or protective zone for the gods of Asgard.
Niflheim: The foggy underworld that contains the dead. Niflheim is ruled by the goddess Hel and as Snorri explains it is for those who die of illness or old age.
Once a Viking had passed on his/her remains would be either buried or cremated. Vikings also offered foodstuffs to the dead; however the nature of this offering remains a puzzling one as archeologists cannot determine whether these were a sacrifice or food for the journey towards the otherworld.

Another common occurrence of Viking burials is funerary ships. This form of burial was not given to regular Viking men but to kings, war chiefs and perhaps their own warriors. Sources explain that these ships may have been tied to a boulder which would anchor the boat down into the depths of the sea onto the otherworld.

ACTIVITY: To be completed on individually downloaded pdf file:
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Using Source B describe and list features of a Viking ship burial. TIP: try to examine specific features of the source such as social class, order of events and the nature of events.

The Vikings saw one of the most rewarding features of afterlife in the form of a hall, this hall being Valhalla. Valhalla or otherwise known as the hall of the slain was a mythical place that allowed its occupants to consistently feast and fight. Valhalla’s doors were open to all warriors (throughout history) that have ever died in the heat of battle. Importantly Valhalla is no confided space as it can fit as many warriors as it likes. Its resources too are infinite as warriors of the hall feast on the meat of Saehrimnir, which is a boar that reanimates itself after the evening has passed. Warriors also have an infinite supply of mead given to them by the udder of the goat known as Heidrum. To Viking warriors Valhalla was seen as a nirvana, the prospect of Valhalla promoted dying for one country in the hope that they will get to spend time with their beloved gods.